America’s Billboard Banksy

C-Note “they call him the Billboard Banksy.”

San Jose, CA – “Look Up!” an art exhibition by California prison artist C-Note in the heart of Silicon Valley features Incarceration Nation, America’s Premier work of art on mass incarceration.

“Look Up!”

“Look Up!” is a journalistic term to describe works of art on Billboards. It is a new trending phenomenon in the art world, mostly from social justice works. According to the London Daily Post, Donald “C-Note” Hooker is the world’s most prolific prisoner artist.

His 2017 work, Incarceration Nation is the first of four quarterly exhibitions in Silicon Valley. A new work will be installed during each of the four seasons, Fall of 2021 – Summer of 2022. Each new work will lead to a path towards the Santa Cruz Mountains.

These kinds of art installations are part of the latest trend in the Art World, known as “Look Up!” This series of “Look Up!” Art exhibitions are the brainchild of Cupertino High, San Jose State University grad, Paralegal, and Silicon Valley Fine Art and Real Estate Broker based in San Jose, Anna D. Smith.

Smith’s inaugural Silicon Valley “Look Up!” the exhibition features Incarceration Nation, America’s Premier work of art on mass incarceration. C-Note fashions these works with the imprimatur of British Graffiti artist Banksy. Not only did this exhibition spur a rally that addressed youth homelessness, parolee homelessness, education, and the lack of a cohesive response from local elected officials, but he hopes these other planned Silicon Valley “Look Ups!” spur the kinds of public viewing that his UK counterpart does.


The American Graffiti movement arose from the Graffiti being exhibited in its prisons and jails by the gangs. Darryl “Cornbread” McCray is known as the father of the American Graffiti movement in the 1970s. According to McCray, he acquired the nickname “Cornbread,” while serving time in a Philadelphia juvenile prison. It was there he was taught and was instructed on Graffiti. He was also the only non-gang member allowed to strike his name, “Cornbread,” on the prison walls. Upon his release, he and his Graffiti writing went on a tear. So much so, it travelled up north to New York. 

According to Kool Herc, the father of Hip Hop, Graffiti writing was also a part of his August 11, 1973, “Back to School Jam,” in New York City’s Bronx. The event is referred to as Hip Hop’s Big Bang moment. This event had on display, and was the catalyst in the recognition of Hip Hop as having elements. The four original artistic elements to Hip Hop are; DJing, also referred to as Turntablism; MCing, referred to as Rap; Graffiti, a visual art form; and B-boying; referred to as Dance.


Banksy is the pseudonym for a British Graffiti artist, who came on the scene in the 1990s. Banksy is a Graffiti purest, in that the spirit of a Graffiti artist, which is the defamation of property is a crime; and anonymity is a necessary part of being a Graffiti artist. His work is best appreciated for its social commentary. Some call it satire, but there is nothing satirical about being a homeless youth; A Very Banksy Christmas, Banksy, 2018; or the unfortunate political circumstance of having to join a resistance movement, Love is in the Air (Flower Thrower), Banksy, 2003; nor is forcing us to reexamine our notions of being a Superhero, like the kind you find in comics, but rather, the real Superheroes being the frontline workers during 9-11 and the COVID-19 pandemic, Game Changer, Banksy, 2021.

Silicon Valley 

Silicon Valley is the Tech World’s global capitol. This capitol is in Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County has the highest wealth Gap in the United States. Besides disparities in wealth, a 2020 University of San Jose State study found, 3% of employees are Black, and only 4.8% of Latinos are in executive positions. The research also found there were no Black women employed at 10 large high-tech companies.

This exhibition resulted in the creation of, A Better San Jose (ABSJ). Its mission statement states: 

San Jose, California, also known as the heart or Crown Jewel of the Silicon Valley is a wonderful place to live and raise a family if you earn over 200k a year.

A Better San Jose consists of local individuals and organizations interested in improving the health and wellbeing of all of San Jose.

With the global upheaval of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, and the United States being 4% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prison population, this exhibition of America’s Premier work of art on mass incarceration is extremely Timely.

“Prison art birthed Graffiti. Graffiti birthed Street art, it’s legalized form. I see Prison art, Graffiti, and Street art as being three legs to the same stool,” says C-Note. Apparently, Banksy agrees.

C-Note “they call him the Billboard Banksy.”

For more information, see the Eventbrite link below:

EVENT: “Look Up!” Incarceration Nation

WHERE: 831 W. San Carlos Blvd, San Jose, CA 95126

WHEN: Oct. 18 – Nov. 17, 2021; 24-hours

Silicon Valley’s Newest “Look Up!” Exhibition Tickets, Oct 18 – Nov 17, 24-hours | Eventbrite


Anna D. Smith

Fine Art and Real Estate Broker 


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